The Grudge List: Your Path to Forgiveness

Today, I’m going to give you a very useful tool to aid you in forgiving everyone. First, though, let’s talk about what sin is. Sin is any thought you dwell on or any action that is against God’s will. God created the Universe and all that is in it; therefore, it is His rules we are under. It’s not a sin to be tempted, to have a thought flit through your head, but it is a sin to dwell on it and imagine yourself giving into that temptation.

We can wrong others, but even then, our sins are 99% against God. Imagine that you had a golden retriever puppy named Goldie (because you’re so original with names) and someone, even a good friend, comes over and kicks your puppy. Not on accident, just being a jerk. Even thought the dog is wronged and nothing was done directly against you, you still take offense because you care about Goldie. She’s yours, and so the offense done against her is taken personally as one against you.

How much more so do you think God takes it when we wrong His sons and daughters or even non-Christians, since He loves us all?

Also, when we wrong each other, we’re breaking God’s will because He tells us to love each other. This makes our wrongs against each other sins against the Creator of the Universe. Just as stepping on a roach is a lesser crime than spitting on another person, so is anything we do to each other compared to the crime of disobeying Him.

I mention this because we all need to be forgiven of our sins. There are no perfect people on this earth, so we all need forgiveness and grace. And, as I wrote yesterday, God will only forgive us if we forgive others.

But not all of the things that we take offense at are sins, are they? There’s the woman who gets in the express checkout lane with 19 items instead of 15, the coworker with the annoying laugh, or the guy with no social skills whatsoever. These things may get on our nerves, but they’re not sins. We need to let go of these grudges, too.

So, how do we let them go?

The best way I have found is by using what I call the ‘Grudge List.’ To make one, start by writing down the names of everyone you can remember. I recommend going by periods in your life (grade school, high school, early 20’s, etc.), then by location (church, school, work, neighborhood, family) so you don’t miss anybody. If you remember a person, but not their name, write down enough of a description so you can remember them when you go through this list.

Next, go through each name on this list and think about the person for a moment. If you have any negative feelings about them, write their name on another list. This is the beginning of your Grudge List.

On your Grudge List, for each name that made the cut, write down all of the offenses you can remember and how they made you feel. Resist the urge to sum up; be specific so you can let go of all the wrongs done to you. It will take time, but it’s better to do a thorough cleansing than a light rinse. Don’t be overly nice here, either. They won’t read this unless you show it to them, so say what’s really on your mind. You can lose the benefit of this exercise by not being completely honest.

Next, write down your own sins against the person. I highly recommend this because it will let you see that you were wrong, too. Don’t put in any statements like, “I wouldn’t have done this if you hadn’t started it,” or, “It may not be as bad as what you did to me, but…” This is the time for you to just admit to yourself that you were wrong, regardless of who started it. You’ll be able to see the argument better from the other person’s point of view, too. Doing this will help ward off the pride that is sure to fight you.

Finally, write a statement of forgiveness for each person. Keep out language such as, “You may have cheated on me, but I have someone way better now, so I can finally forgive you.” Your forgiveness can’t be based on what’s happened in your life since the event; in fact, that’s part of the point. You have to forgive based on what Jesus did for you 2,000 years ago. Forgive because you’ve been forgiven of so much more.

Doing this once probably won’t get rid of all the negative feelings you have against everyone, so you may have to keep going through it. Each time you do, though, it should get a little easier. Some of the minor grudges you may be able to cross off immediately, some may take months (and might still pop up years after you thought you’d forgiven them). Just have patience and keep reminding yourself of what Jesus has done for you…if you forgive as He’s forgiven you.

Why We Should Forgive and Why We Must Forgive

One of the biggest barriers to having real self-confidence is holding on to grudges. Most of us have grudges against God, ourselves, and others and we need to let them all go before we can enjoy the confidence God wants us to have. All this week, I’ll be posting on forgiveness, starting with why we should forgive and why we must forgive.

There is a quote attributed in a variety of forms to various people that reads, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” When you hold a grudge against someone else, you’re doing far more harm to yourself than to them.

Unforgiveness will affect you negatively in several ways:

1. It will take your time, energy, and focus off of God and the things you should be focused on. There was one woman I was interested in during college who gave me a rather harsh, public rejection. I replayed over and over in my head what I wish I’d said for years after, getting angry again at both of us. That time could have been better spent doing almost anything else: reading the Bible, praying, writing, editing, working out, or even sleeping. All my grudge did was waste time and make me angry.

Think about your grudges for a second. How much time do you devote to them? Are you daydreaming of getting even? Are you seething? Do you automatically get angry whenever you’re around that person?

This is neither healthy nor productive. It is stealing time and energy away from God, your job, relationships, family, and other important things in your life. And honestly, would you rather think about something that makes you happy or something that makes you miserable and angry?

2. It will prevent you from moving forward in the relationship in which you have a grudge. You cannot want to grow closer to someone or love them more deeply when you are angry with them. You have to let go of that grudge for the relationship to become closer. This is true of all relationships, whether with other people, God, or even yourself. You cannot force yourself through this barrier by spending more time with that person, either. Trying to force it will only deepen the grudge because your mind will keep turning back to it. The only way to deepen the relationship is to forgive that person.

3. It will get in the way of future relationships. When we hold grudges, it’s very difficult to only be angry with the person who wronged us. You’ve heard this before when your friend breaks up with someone and decries all men or women or when your boss upsets you and you vent against bosses in general. We tend to stereotype people and get mad at the lot of them, rather than just the ones with whom we’ve any right to be angry. When we do this, we make false or unfounded accusations and these get in the way of building healthy, solid relationships.

4. As Christians, we are called to be one body. Ever wake up in the middle of the night, stumble toward the bathroom, and find furniture with your toe? It hurts, but do you cut your toe off so it won’t happen again? Of course not!

Why, then, do we not do this within the church? When we refuse to forgive each other, we act like the world does. If the Gospel we’re bragging about isn’t enough to make us radically different than everyone else and help us rise above the petty concerns that so much of the world is bogged down in, then how can we expect them to want to become Christians?

Moreover, those in the church are our brothers and sisters. They should be people we love and always forgive. In Matthew 18, Peter asks how many times he’s supposed to forgive his brother and offers seven times. Jesus says it should be seventy times seven. That’s not a literal number, but Jesus was telling him as often as Peter’s brother sinned against him, Peter should forgive him.

5. Unforgiveness is an indictment of our faith in God to fix whatever mess we’re in. God doesn’t just let us suffer for the fun of it. He doesn’t allow things to be taken from us because He’s asleep on the job. He allows these things for a reason. When the New Testament apostles were beaten and imprisoned, they weren’t given fine new houses and bags of gold, but they were given something even better: a deeper relationship with God. They piled up treasures in Heaven as well, but even on earth, they got something that no earthly treasure could buy them.             God does not allow things to be taken from us unless He intends to give us something better. Even when He’s taking things from us as a chastisement for our sins or because they’re not good for us, the end result is taking something from us that was between us and Him. We get more of Him, more of what we desperately need. When we refuse to forgive, we’re telling God we don’t believe He’ll work all things out in the end for our good, meaning that the person who hurt us is more powerful than His ability to restore us.

6. Lastly, it is arrogant to put yourself above God. In the United States, the President has the power to issue a full pardon to anyone. Imagine a murderer in Texas is on death row and the President issues such a pardon. The man’s crimes are all exonerated. It’s as if he hadn’t even gotten a speeding ticket. Then some guard decides to punish this guy anyway, so instead of freeing him, he hauls him off to the execution chamber and injects the shot himself. He is no longer a government-sanctioned executioner, but a criminal himself, guilty of murder. Why? Because that man on death row, whatever he had done, had been pardoned and is now deemed innocent. The President’s forgiveness of him matters more than that guard’s opinion or even the facts of the case.

When we hold a grudge against other people, we’re essentially telling them they owe us for something that God has already forgiven. That puts us above God, saying that our opinion of their wrongdoing is more important than God’s opinion of it. We put ourselves in the Throne of Judgment, which is God’s place alone. And then we further profane it by using it to judge others according to what they have done to us rather than with God’s mercy and a remembrance that all sins are done primarily against Him.

Not only that, we’re saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough to wash out that person’s sins because that person doesn’t have our forgiveness. Think of the preposterous arrogance of this: Jesus, part of the Trinity, God Himself, is not powerful enough to wash out someone’s sins, but the forgiveness of you, a fallen, weak, petty human is? You not only set yourself up as God when you don’t forgive, you trample Jesus’ sacrifice as not good enough.

All of these are reasons that we should forgive. Are they the reason we must forgive, though? No. The reason we must forgive goes even deeper.

We must forgive because the Bible commands us to.

There are two basic commandments that Jesus gives: Love the Lord with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. As part of the Lord’s Prayer, He gives us a commandment that’s part of the latter. He says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This is the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that He specifically highlights afterward. It’s that important.

Why does He grant leniency for loving Him and loving others (what else can we call the forgiveness of our sins?), but doesn’t grant leniency for forgiving them?

The answer is because “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. The key phrase in this discussion is “through faith.” You have to believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to wash out your sins. If you do not believe this, then it will not work for you.

Here’s the issue, though: Jesus didn’t die for just you. He died to offer Himself as a sacrifice for everyone. Anyone who believes in what He did can take advantage of His sacrifice. It is the ultimate one-size-fits-all gift. This means that the same gift was given to you as was given to everyone else, and accepting this gift is based on faith. If you do not believe it is enough for someone else’s sins, then it is not enough for your sins, either.

Read that last paragraph again…slowly. When you refuse to forgive someone, you’re not just saying that the offending person needs your forgiveness to really be forgiven; you’re saying that God Himself is not strong enough to cleanse that person, which means that God Himself is not strong enough to cleanse you. You are dooming yourself by your own unbelief, by your own unforgiveness. His blood is either strong enough for everyone, or it’s strong enough for no one. You must decide which of those two options you believe because there is no third option.

When At Last

I once asked a wise man
What was the path to life.
He told me I would find
It was death if I was wise.
I did not like that answer
And set out to prove him wrong
By finding the happiness
I’d been missing all along.
My mission was defined
My goal was crystal clear
With wealth I can have it all
And buy what I’ll hold dear.
T’was then I lost my honor;
It was the price of gold.
I had everything I’d wanted
Except what I had sold.
At long last, I regained it
And then set out to find
Women who would pleasure me,
Sex to ease my troubled mind.
With each one, I grew worse
And my joy here soon faded
Leaving me empty inside,
Just bitter, cold, and jaded.
Power then was what I needed
With it come honor and fame
And everyone likes everyone;
At least, that’s their little game.
But they were all so shallow
With masks they could hardly bear
Too afraid to show the world
What was truly under there.
No gold, no sex, no power;
And now I had no clue
Of what there was left in life,
Of what I was supposed to do.
I gave away what I had
For of it I’d grown tired
And wanted to do some good
Before my time expired.
Finally I realized
That there was indeed a way
That I could actually enjoy
Each and every day.
The wise man was correct
And now I truly see
That I only found my life
When at last I died to me.

11 Steps to Christian Self-Confidence, Part 2

Yesterday, I posted the first six steps; today, I’m posting the last five. Keep in mind that you probably won’t master these after reading them just once through. That’s totally expected; it’s a process that can take as much time as you need. Just stick with it. Also, aside from the first four steps, the others don’t have to be done in any particular order. You’ll find that as you do them, your confidence will slowly increase. Finally, to echo yesterday’s note, I’ll be going over forgiveness all of next week because it’s such a large topic and because it’s such a huge barrier for most people having the confidence God wants for them.

Without further ado, here’s the rest of the list:

7.Treat yourself to something every now and again, just because you deserve it. Try to get out of this mode of rewarding yourself only for a job well done. It’s not wrong to do that on occasion and can serve as good motivation, but rewarding yourself only after completing a project or achieving a goal reinforces the belief that good deeds are what cause value and happiness. Invest in yourself simply because you’re valuable. Don’t over-indulge, but sometimes, go on a trip to the movie theater. Go to a ballgame or the spa. Stop at the grocery store early in the morning and pick up a very fresh doughnut. You’re worth far more than that to God, so why not be worth it to yourself?

Even Jesus invested in Himself. When He died on the cross, the soldiers cast lots for his tunic (John 19:23-24). Why? Because it was very nice, having been made without a seam, so they didn’t want to divide it, even though each one wanted it. Contrary to what some people may think about Jesus, He was no mean beggar. He was a carpenter for about 17 years before He began His ministry, and He was apparently willing to spend some of that money on Himself to get a nice, expensive tunic.

8.Focus on others. It’s difficult to really get a grasp of how much God loves and values you without realizing that He values others just as much and for the same reason. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack in keeping his promise, as some count slackness, but he is longsuffering toward us, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God wants every last person to come to Him and is willing to forgive them all.

Look at someone else right now and think, “God loves that person as much as He loves me.” It’s a really hard thing to truly realize that God loves Hitler, you, and John the Baptist equally. Yet we are each masterpieces painted by the ultimate Master. His love isn’t dependent on what you or they have done. It’s His choice and He has decided to love no matter what. When it really hits home, at least for me, is when I think about someone who just upset me, whether they lied to me, insulted me, or were ungrateful. God loves everyone, no matter what they do…even when they do it to you.

Why is it important to view others this way? For a variety of reasons:

A. Seeing them this way is a good reminder that it is about how God views them and us and not about how we view each other and ourselves.

B. Seeing them as valuable despite anything they may do will enable us to live like Christ has called us to live: in love and not in judgment. Just like your value doesn’t depend on actions, their value is based on how God sees them as well and is independent of their actions. Judgment is God’s place, not ours (James 4:11-12). Our place is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

C. You can’t guide them toward God very well while disliking yourself and them. If you have no faith that God will work things out in the end and don’t love and accept others and yourself, what kind of marketing tool are you for the Gospel?

The purpose of the Gospel message is not that our lives will be wonderful and perfect and certainly not that we have to live perfectly. In fact, one of the central points of the Gospel is that it is impossible for us to obtain perfection on our own. We are in desperate need of help to even want to come to Christ.

But another point of the Gospel is how much God loves every last one of us, how valuable we are to Him, simply because He chooses to love us. That love is the reason we can love ourselves, why we can love others, and how we know everything will indeed work out in the end. If you aren’t showing this love to others and loving yourself in the right way and for the right reasons, then they are not going to be interested in becoming Christians because it’s obviously not working for you.

D. Loving others is good for your mental and emotional health, too. You’ve probably worked with some really annoying people or maybe seen that guy at the gym who grunts like he’s having a hernia with every rep. The problem is that while the Bible tells us a few groups of people to avoid, “those who getteth thine goat” is not one of them. We’re called to be good to those who spitefully use us; how much more so should we be good to those who happen to have a different sense of humor, are a little cloying, or have annoying habits?

E. Lastly, it’s difficult to be angry with someone without feeling superior to them in some way. Instead, imagine viewing them as equals, as someone whom God has signed off on, as someone who, to God, is worth Jesus’ sacrifice, even after they’ve gone and offended oh-so-magnificent you. Every last person on this planet needs Christ as much as you do and is every bit as valuable as you’ll ever be.

9.Find out what you really want to do. Most people spend their lives doing what others want them to do, and thus they never really get to live their own lives. The Dalai Lama, when asked, “What thing about humanity surprises you the most?” answered, “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

If you’re doing something that you don’t want to do, then it’s time to reevaluate. You are the one who has to live with the results of your decisions. You are the one who will have to stand before God and answer for them, who will reap the rewards or the punishments they bring, and who will remember and be remembered for them. Why then would you let other people make these decisions for you?

Keep in mind, of course, that there is a very distinct line between being irresponsible and being free. It’s wrong to abandon your family or your responsibilities; however, if you can support them with a job doing what you love, do it. Find a hobby you enjoy, a charity that recharges you, or a subject that fascinates you. Life is too short to waste doing only what you think others want you to do.

10.Eat a squid. This one is put in here just for laughs. The point is, don’t take life or yourself too seriously. Life is going to have lots of failures in it, by you, by loved ones, and by acquaintances, bosses, colleagues, and complete strangers. It will have other interruptions in the forms of the economy, bad weather, potential catastrophes, diseases, and a host of other problems. You’ve survived many of these so far, and there will likely be many more to endure. But guess what? You’ve survived them. Sure, those times were probably awful, but hopefully now, they provide some good funny stories or have given you the experience needed to avoid similar mistakes. You’re not perfect and the only people who really expect anyone to be perfect are the people who are dead set on being perfect themselves – that is, those who are so miserably unconfident that they are like I was.

Take responsibility for mistakes, then fix them. If it’s not a real issue, laugh about it and move on. Laughing will feel better than castigating yourself, and you’ll give others the impression that you’re not going to be harsh with them if they let down their walls.

Also, if you are so wrapped up in having to be perfect in the pursuit of confidence, then the entire point of confidence – the freedom to be your real self – is missed and the pursuit is just another thing at which you must excel.

11.Tell someone. This will probably be done by your actions, but be ready to just be open with them when they ask what has come over you. It’s a story not just of your own transformation, but of God’s transforming power, because that is at the heart of it. God can take out a heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh, like He promises to in Ezekiel 36:26. Once this change truly takes hold, you won’t be able to help telling others about it.

I honestly believe that this is part of what 1 Peter 3:15 is talking about when it says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” It’s not just the hope of Heaven, but of finding your true value, and in so doing, finding the freedom you’ve been seeking so long. I think a key factor of the Gospel message has been overlooked, or at least under-emphasized, for a long time. We get that God loves us enough to sacrifice Jesus for us and that’s mind-boggling to consider, but we miss the part where that makes us His sons and daughters, where we get a new identity, a better one than we could ever hope to earn. If you have an infinite supply of something so good and so needed, how could you possibly keep it to yourself?

Defining Success

From my wonderful wife, a look at the struggle between seeking worldly success and seeking to honor God first.

Isaiah 43:1

 truth-about-success-600x621

(Originally published 8/28/13)

I’ve been thinking about success a lot lately. It was never really something I considered much because to me it used to mean ‘go to work, don’t get fired, get home safely.’ Mission accomplished. I never really aimed high in any job or position I had because I’ve never been career oriented.

Don’t get me wrong, I had work ethic and I always (usually) tried to give my best to my job, whatever it was at the time. After all, I was called to do all things to the glory of God and I was gonna put my back into it. But it was never for the glory of me. So long as I got my paycheck, I was happy.

Then I started writing. And now all of a sudden, success is not only a goal, it’s a necessity. And by success I mean a published…

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11 Steps to Christian Self-Confidence, Part 1

Aside from asking God to help change your heart, there are 11 steps to getting true confidence. Here are the first 6, with the other 5 to come tomorrow. Changing how you feel about yourself is not something you’re going to achieve all at once. I say this not as a discouragement, but rather to give you hope. At the beginning, there will be a lot of backsliding into old thought patterns. That doesn’t mean this isn’t working, it doesn’t mean you have failed, and it most certainly doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. If reading the Bible once cannot make someone believe in and love God perfectly, then how can I hope that reading these posts once is enough to magically erase all the beliefs someone has built up about themselves over the years? No, thought patterns are far too ingrained for that.

These steps can take as long or short a time as you want. The important thing is to keep pushing forward with them.

1.Ask yourself how your current way of looking at life is working out. Any change has to be the result of a true, deep desire to change. Satisfaction with the status quo or a belief that change is too difficult will render all of my words ineffectual. A decision to change is a required first step before any change is possible.

Think about where you’re currently getting your sense of self-worth and ask yourself, “How’s this working out for me?” You’ve been spending so much time and energy trying to get acceptance from yourself and others and are apparently aware of the problem if you’re reading this post.

Is this really how you want to live?

If the answer is no, then it’s time to make a big change in how you view the world. Changing how good you are at certain things will never be enough because there will always be that need to perform or to change something else with every failure or rejection. There will never be a point at which you’ll feel you’ve arrived; even if you accomplish all your goals, there will always be the next goal or the fear that what you have can be taken from you.

You have a choice: either keep trying win this game or change your heart in such a way that you are no longer controlled by what others think of you, or even by what you think you should be. This choice must be made before any of the other steps matter.

2.Figure out exactly where your sense of self worth comes from currently. Acknowledge which actions are geared toward gaining the approval of yourself and others. Make a list of things you do and go through it thoroughly and with brutal honesty. There is nothing to be gained by lying and the lesson of a lifetime to be lost.

Go deep here, too. Don’t just say, “Well, I spend extra time at the office so I can get more money,” and stop there. What are you trying to earn or what purchase will these savings buy? If the goal is to buy a house, for example, what is it about owning a nice house that will make you more valuable to others? What is so important about being valuable to them? Where do these beliefs come from? It is imperative to know yourself before change can occur.

3.Find out who the Bible says you are. You are the son or daughter of Christ, an heir to the kingdom of heaven, and someone God has loved enough to die for. God has called you His friend, not His slave. You have been redeemed, made holy as though you’d never sinned. There is no position higher than this.

Think of the Greeks and their mythology. Who was deemed higher: a king of men or a son of the gods? Who had more power? Who is more often the focus of legend? If a son of the gods had more power, why hold to the idea that kings on earth have more power than you do as a literal son or daughter of God? Not to say you can order them around, for God has given those in power on earth their power to rule, but we hold to the idea that rich, powerful, or good-looking people are better and they’re not. All of that means nothing compared to the value we have by the Creator of the Universe creating us, choosing to love us, and valuing us above His own Son’s life.

4.Believe it. This sounds closely related to #3, but they are, in fact, worlds apart. I knew most of what the Bible said about me for years. It didn’t help. In fact, knowing without believing actually hurt because it made me think God didn’t want me to have anything else and so He made me lovable by just Him, and then only if I pleased Him enough. I felt like God loved everyone else and that somehow, based on something I had done, it didn’t apply to me at all. I was going to heaven, but couldn’t expect anything else from God. Feeling He didn’t love me personally, I sought love elsewhere. It was only when I started believing what He thought about me (Psalm 56:8 changed my perspective quite a bit) that I was able to finally believe I had value outside of what I could do or who I was with.

This belief is not going to come instantly. It’s been a few years since I first realized this and I still sometimes consider myself intelligent more readily than I consider myself a child of God. This new identity is really what I’m trying to help you grow with these steps. The purpose of this step is not to merely believe it and change your life forever from that moment. Rather, it’s choosing to believe it even when it sounds ridiculous. Whenever frustrations and self-deprecation start rearing their ugly heads, you’ll start to think, “This doesn’t matter because this doesn’t determine my value. My value is already set in stone and written in blood.” And then stop thinking about it. It will probably be hard at first, to either stop long enough to have this thought or to stop thinking about it afterward, but as you make the conscious decision to believe it, the actual belief comes much more easily.

5.Stop criticizing yourself. For years, I told myself I was a failure, that I would always be alone and never amount to much because I was worthless.

It was never true.

I’ve never felt better after criticizing myself. I’ve also never felt as motivated by being mad at myself as I have by being excited and happy about something. I have done a bunch of things out of anger at myself, but most of the projects I’ve started in such a state have not been finished. I stop them as soon as I’ve calmed down and never get back to them. Criticizing yourself is not worth the misery it causes. It never has been and never will be.

Also, don’t take it to heart when others criticize you. If what they say has merit, you can choose to change if it is a problem, but here’s the truth: nobody ever has been or ever will be able to make you think you’re worse than you already fear you are. Any time anyone has insulted you and caused your self-hatred to well up, they haven’t really done anything but feed your fears. Even if they pointed out something you weren’t aware of – such as a mistake on a project or some physical flaw – if the comment stung, then you already feared being a failure or being unattractive. Without a fear of rejection, that rejection would not hurt.

Now reread that paragraph, several times if need be. The problem with your self-confidence is not and never has been other people. It is self-confidence. It is your problem and yours alone. It doesn’t matter what others say, it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, and it doesn’t matter what their motives were. Self-confidence is only affected by what a person believes about himself, which is precisely why it is so important to stop cutting yourself down.

6.Forgive yourself and others. One of the hardest parts of getting confidence was realizing I had to forgive myself. For everything. For being 30 and single, for not having figured this out back when I was 18 or 19, for all the time I’ve wasted playing games or burying myself in work and avoiding my problems. For all the opportunities I passed up because I was too afraid to reach out and grab them. For all the people I’ve hurt along the way. For rejecting God so many times. I have to start completely afresh with myself, just as God starts each day with me (Lamentations 3:22-23). I can and should endeavor to learn from my mistakes, but I cannot keep bringing them up every time I make another one, neither can I fear the consequences of my mistakes to the point where I blow them out of proportion.

You also have to forgive others and let go of any grudge you have against God. Others must be forgiven because God commands you to forgive in light of all that He’s forgiven in you and because it’s a sign that their wrongs don’t diminish your value. You can’t forgive God because He’s never sinned against you, but you must let go of your grudge against Him (and do this before you forgive yourself or others) because it’s impossible to want to grow closer to someone when you’re angry with them. That grudge will put a barrier in the relationship that will only let you get so close, yet you need to be very close if you’re to have the confidence He wants for you.

NOTE: Because forgiveness is such a complex topic and is one of the biggest barriers to getting true confidence, I am devoting all of next week to talking about it.

The 16 Traits of True Confidence, Part 2

Continuing yesterday’s list, true confidence:

8. Is not fearless, but is courageous. Confidence doesn’t mean fearing nothing and always pressing forward intrepidly come what may. Even Jesus didn’t do that. When faced with the cross, He prayed that if there was any way that cup could be taken from Him that God would do it. He was willing to submit to God still and, of course, did die on the cross for us, but He was so nervous and stressed that He sweat drops of blood. There was not a lack of fear in Him, but there was a recognition that He had what it took to get through it.

You should always be mindful of the dangerous situations into which certain decisions could lead. That does not necessarily mean not making a given decision, but rather being aware of it, having a plan to tackle it, and trusting God to work out everything in the end.

Confidence also knows its limits. This doesn’t just mean knowing your weaknesses; it means knowing the limits of your strengths as well. There is no need for bravado or for pushing your boundaries because there is nothing to prove to anyone. Value is not dependent on success or failure in a given venture and so there is no sense of pressure to risk it all just to please someone else or prove your own worth.

Most of us won’t have to face crucifixion, so what does that mean for us? It means not being afraid to make important decisions and stick with them. I moved from Virginia, where I had a large group of friends, to Colorado Springs, where I met my wife. Then we moved to Houston, where we know almost nobody. Yet I don’t regret it because I believe this is where God wants me to be, and so this is where I am.

Confidence also allows people to speak their mind when necessary. This includes calling out people when it’s needed, but also only during the appropriate time and place. There’s no need to speak just to be heard, but an opinion or idea that would benefit the conversation won’t be kept to yourself out of fear of being laughed at, rejected, or proven wrong. You’ll be able to take risks when they’re warranted, carefully analyzing the pros and cons beforehand. There will be no fear rejection or failure.

9. Is always honest. Think about it this way: people lie to others and themselves because they are afraid of the consequences of the truth. Why do people tell their bosses lies about car trouble when the truth is that they just slept through their alarm? Why do they tell their girlfriend or wife what they want to hear instead of what’s true when they ask? Why do they keep denying that there’s anything wrong when they clearly aren’t happy with the way life has turned out?

True confidence does not need to hide behind lies for any reason. It allows you to speak when it is necessary and be silent when it is prudent, both for the right reasons rather than any fear. Jesus never deceived anyone because there was never a reason to. He knew that God was in control at all times, so the consequences of actions were never something to fear and try to run from. With faith in God, there comes a peace that things will work out in the end, and that God doesn’t need to be lied to or manipulated into caring for you.

10. Gives without caring if it receives. Most people give in order to get something in return. It can be working for a charity in order to get recognition or to feel they’re holy and righteous. It can be being there for someone in the hopes of this someone falling in love with them. It can be giving a gift so that they can get a hug and draw closer to that person. Whatever form it takes, few of us can give without expecting anything at all in return.

Real confidence, even if it recognizes ingratitude, doesn’t get hurt by it. When Jesus healed ten lepers in Luke 17:12-19 and only one returned, Jesus did indeed point out that there was a lack of gratitude in the other nine. He did not, however, curse them, neither did He revoke their healing or dwell on it at all. His gift was theirs, regardless of whether they praised Him for it, simply because He decided to love them.

That is how we are meant to live, we are supposed to, “…love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” (Luke 6:35)

11. Is at least somewhat outgoing. God created some people introverts and some extroverts, so being introverted by nature does not mean confidence is impossible to obtain, Being uncomfortable around other people, however, is a sure sign of a lack of confidence. Regardless of whether you’d rather be around a small group of people or alone or in the midst of a huge party, you should be able to interact with people without fear or discomfort because there is nothing to prove to any of them and nothing to lose.

At the same time, there’s no need to be the center of attention, either. You can simply be there and let someone else have the attention or let there be no center of attention at all.

I also believe that being more confident will make you want to be around people at least a little more. Why? Because part of confidence is seeing others as God sees them. Seeing people as masterpieces rather than competition will give you more compassion and love for them. Their stories won’t be opportunities for judgment or condemnation, but things that show how they’ve sought love, safety, or escape in their own way. You might never get the energy rush an extrovert gets from meeting new people or being in a large crowd, but caring for others will cause you to enjoying meeting them more.

12. Does not seek its own glory. This is because it feels no need to. God is confident and seeks His own glory, but the difference is He’s earned it. You haven’t. Also, glorifying Him keeps us from trying to glorify ourselves, which leads inexorably to failure and pain for both us and those around us. Our glorifying Him adds a life-changing element to us and nothing to Him.

Since we, however, do not deserve worship, we should feel no need to let everyone know we are fantastic and wonderful, or even that we are now confident. We simply are confident and that shows through. True confidence doesn’t even care if other people see it because there is nothing to prove and nothing lost or devalued if it’s missed, at least not by the person who is confident.

13. Apologizes and forgives easily. When we know we’re wrong and refuse to apologize (usually because the other person hasn’t apologized to us), we let our pride get in the way. Pride is just a way of claiming to be better and more important than someone else, and that’s always rooted in insecurity rather than actual confidence. Neither sin nor their lack of forgiveness lessens your value, nor does admitting to being wrong. At worst, you will extend an olive branch and, at best, receive the sought after forgiveness and/or apology. If not, know that their refusal to forgive is a reflection on them, not on you.

NOTE: All of next week is devoted to the topic of forgiveness, as that is one of the biggest barriers people have to obtaining true confidence.

14. Allows you to turn the other cheek without becoming a pushover. Let’s be very clear about one thing: some people will take advantage of you. It happened to Jesus, why wouldn’t it happen to everyone else? But what did He do when it happened? He turned the other cheek. He forgave.

What’s the difference? The difference is that Jesus never felt indebted to people. He never let their will override His own. It was His love for people that compelled Him to do what He did, not a fear of how they’d react if He didn’t. He didn’t forgive and heal because He had to, but because He chose to.

It’s impossible to really turn the other cheek without confidence, because there is something in getting beaten, shamed, taken advantage of, or robbed that will eat at you, further cementing your perceived worthlessness. There are people who believe they deserve for these things to happen to them, or at least, that they don’t really have the right to fight for what they deserve. With that belief, each offense is piled on top of the others to make these beliefs more permanent.

15. Is not defensive. Lots of people have a hard time taking criticism, even the constructive sort. As a writer, I know that editing is a part of the book-writing process. It may be my least favorite part, but I can see the value and necessity of it. The difficulty used to come when that knowledge is tested with other people’s criticisms. Before writing this book, if someone else found a single typo, I thanked them and fixed it. With two or three, I’d get frustrated with myself. By the fourth, I wondered if I did anything at all right and wanted to go through the whole thing again line by line. I started to fear these other people would think I didn’t care about my work or was incompetent or that the message must not be worth reading if there were that many mistakes in delivering it.

What I eventually realized is that these people are doing me a favor by pointing out shortcomings in my manuscript. But even if their reaction was to burn it in front of me and tell me they did it to save anyone else from having to read it, that does not make me in any way a failure or worthless. It means only that this person didn’t like a particular manuscript. It was a hard thing for me to separate my work from my value because of how long I’ve found the latter in the former, but as I find it more and more in God, I’m more able to let the criticism go. If none of my failures matter, then I don’t have to be defensive or prove myself right or better than anyone else. I need do nothing except for thank them for pointing out my errors and then go about fixing them.

16. Is free. Real confidence is, because of all the traits listed above, free to do what it wants. Naturally, I don’t mean that confidence places someone above the law or moral codes; no, I mean that there’s no feeling of enslavement to others or need for approval. Past mistakes won’t be prison cells and current shortcomings won’t be shackles. People with more talent in certain areas no longer pose a threat. There’s no need to impress people or to hide from them. You can be yourself, embracing the uniqueness God has put in you, and let others see it. I have honestly never felt anything like it, and the more I get of it, the more I think that being a true Christian has to include some element of finding this freedom and self-confidence.